Lagos, Nigeria– The curtains have been drawn on the maiden edition of the Sahara Innovation Week, an initiative birthed with a vision to foster knowledge sharing and inventions that boost Sahara’s value proposition globally, with Sahara’s first Innovation Hackathon producing winners across the Group.
The Hackathon which focused on service excellence around operational efficiency, customer experience and data optimisation & monetisation, attracted various submissions from different teams across the Group, and after rigorous assessment by various judges, Team GIS from Ikeja Electric Plc emerged as overall winners.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Executive Director, Kola Adesina stated that “to reach greater heights, and to stay relevant, we must embrace innovation,” reiterating that Management would support innovative ideas and transform them for optimized implementation. Adesina disclosed that Management would transform the overall winning idea into a business enterprise in which the innovators will have shares.
The winners include Ayodele Alonge and Opeyemi Adaramola of Team BRAVO from Centrum Properties Limited, Ernest Efenador of Team OXYGEN from Egbin Power Plc, Chiedozie Ilechie, Chukwuemeka Azodo and Terkuma Ivande of Team REMACS from First Independent Power Limited, and Mobolaji Fayomade, Emmanuel Oyerinde and Chijioke Emeruwa of Team GIS from Ikeja Electric Plc.
The top four winning teams went home with $5,000, $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 respectively. Emphasizing the importance of technology and innovation to the future of Sahara Group, Executive Director, Temitope Shonubi said: “We see technology as that system that makes things better, easier, improves customer efficiency and operational effectiveness. This will drive what we do much more in the coming years at Sahara”.
Ayodele Alonge, one of the winners, from Centrum Properties Limited, the real estate arm of the Group, described the Hackathon as a challenging and rewarding exercise. “This award has changed my life. In fact, I’ll be adding this achievement to my LinkedIn profile ‘Sahara Innovation Week winner, 2019’,”she stated.
Other activities including Innovation Trivia, where winners went home with virtual reality gift items, Innovation showcase and knowledge sharing sessions, provided useful insight into the innovation path to Sahara’s future.
African Women in GIS (AWiGIS)- Our Story
African Women in GIS (AWiGIS) is a community of African women around the world who either study, work or are interested in the geospatial industry. This community was borne out of the desire of two young women, Cyhana Williams from Ghana and Chidimma Umeogu from Nigeria, to create an association that fostered community and encouraged other African women to pursue GIS careers. They also sought to display the application prospects of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) field for Africa.
The community’s major objective is to create a forum that gives women of African descent (whether living in Africa or in the diaspora) the freedom to create connections, gain mentors, learn new skills, access education in GIS-related schools as well as job-related advice and opportunities.
The African Women in GIS community first started out as two separate country groups. Chidimma created her group on 29th July, 2017 for Women in GIS- Nigeria whiles Cyhana formed hers in April, 2019 called Women in GIS – Ghana. Together, these groups had members who were students and workers in the GIS field. It was a little tough garnering women in Ghana since the visibility and awareness of GIS was low. Thus, some students especially women who studied GIS in their undergraduate studies switched to a different career path after graduation due to the difficulty in getting a sustainable GIS job.
In June 2019, Chidimma and Cyhana met on LinkedIn and discussed their efforts in creating platforms for women in their individual countries. This led to a conversation of collaboration and increasing the group coverage to pan the entire African continent. Hence, the genesis of the African Women in GIS community on October 2019. It started out with forty-one (41) Nigerian members, a member from Burkina Faso and eleven (11) Ghanaian members. Nigeria is the group’s headquarters country with Ghana as the second.
Members were encouraged to invite other women with the same interests or practice to join the group. The founders researched and reached out to women on LinkedIn who were in the same field. As time went on, members became acquainted with one another and shared their views on how the community should progress with their ideas for activities. Connections groomed and the group became larger.
In January 2020, the African Women in GIS was introduced to the rest of the world. It launched its social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) and used these platforms to reach out to more women. The platform also highlights the profiles of members in order to motivate other women who are practicing, studying or just enthusiastic about GIS. By the end of January 2020, AWiGIS had reached about one thousand (1,000) followers on LinkedIn and two hundred (200) followers on Twitter with over one hundred (100) members in its member group.
By February of 2020, the founders engaged a few members of the group as volunteers as well as a secretary who assist in the task of creating content and planning group activities in order to improve the member and public engagement. In May 2020, AWiGIS gained about 2,500 followers on LinkedIn with almost 200 active members from Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia , Kenya Cameroon and the Diaspora. It also launched its membership transition to Slack where a variety of channels for members to discuss, share relevant information and host tutorial activities operates efficiently. Although membership is strictly for women, other activities are open to the public.
In all enthusiasm and excitement, we have a number of activities planned out for the next few months as well as into the future. Members of the community proposed some activities whilst others were opportunities gotten from key individuals and organizations who reached out to the community.
For starters, AWiGIS has an upcoming volunteering project with Ibisa Network – an Organization that aims to aid small-scale farmers with satellite images of their farms to help them get insurance covers. The community collaborates with Ibisa Network by providing the AWiGIS members a volunteering opportunity with Ibisa where they will be assessing satellite images of farmlands. Through this volunteering project, the members get to add this work experience to their CVs as well as other incentives.
After the pandemic, AWiGIS plans to encourage the members to host outreach programs to schools and other groups. There, the members will help educate students about GIS and show them some impressive visualizations of GIS application as well as some roles of this technology in the real world. In addition, the official AWiGIS website will be launched and it will serve as a platform to display African GIS applications. It will also be a job recruitment site for geospatial roles in Africa.
We are excited about the various plans we have in place for the community, Africa and for the world at large. Follow us, join us and view the geospatial world through the eyes of African Women.
Author: Esther Moore
Irene Mbari- Kirika- inABLE.org, Career and Impact
Irene Mbari- Kirika is the Executive Director at inABLE.org, a NGO that empowers the blind and visually impaired students in Africa through computer assistive technology. Recognized as a dynamic, global strategic leader and an executive-level innovator who has created technology-powered special-educational environments to positively affect the lives of blind, visually-impaired, and multi-disability youths in Africa. She is also a sought-after consultant and public speaker who has collaborated on training, evaluation, research, and policy projects with the World Bank, the government of Kenya, multiple international universities, and many global corporations.
Irene has been a featured speaker at several high-profile educational events, including the UNESCO Mobile Learning week in Paris and ICT Connected Summit in Kenya, as well as an invited participant at the Zero Project Conference 2020 held at the Vienna headquarters of the United Nations in Austria, and TechShare Pro 2019, which took place at Google UK headquarters in London England.
As the Executive Director at inABLE.org, Irene Mbari- Kirika has researched, developed, and executed the organization’s accessibility of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy, and has led and facilitated discussions on best practices in the accessibility space and international nonprofit operations. She has championed initiatives related to global policy, advocacy, and international development.
She has also co-authored research reports- A Comprehensive Report on the Nationwide Baseline Survey of Technology Skills for Learners with Vision Impairment in Kenya by the Georgia Institute of Technology – and A Computer Training Program for the Schools for the Blind in Kenya published by the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research.
Irene holds a Business Management degree from Kennesaw State University in Georgia and a Global Master’s of Arts (GMAP) in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA.
Impact & Philanthropy
The inspiration for inABLE began when Irene attended a reading day at the Kenya National Library. A group of students who were extremely competitive, smart, and outgoing captured her attention. This group stood out in the reading challenge for the day.Yet, to her astonishment, Irene learned these students were all blind or low vision.When she inquired about these youths and learned that they were from a nearby blind school that had a shortage of Braille books and paper and without access to computers and the Internet.
This disparity in education sparked an urgent drive to connect these students to the rest of the world by destroying the barriers to communication and employment. The inABLE organization can truly be described as “visionary,” because its mission is to empower blind and visually impaired students in Africa through technology. From the very beginning, inABLE has watched blind and visually impaired primary and secondary students transform as they learned how to access online educational resources, research homework assignments, communicate with new friends worldwide, use social media, host blogs and develop employable skills, such as JAVA programming and HTML website design.
What is unique is that the inABLE computer lab is a complete technological solution that removes barriers to learning with an innovative educational platform that promotes information computer technology as an integral classroom tool. With assistive-technology computer skills, students gain independence to use multiple devices, access eBooks and online educational resources, real time news and the ability to communicate and interact with the rest of the world.
Over the last 10 years, inABLE has set up eight computer assistive technology labs at special schools for the blind across Kenya and enrolled more than 8,000 students. inABLE’s programmes are designed to have the following lasting and transformative impact on the lives of beneficiaries:
- Bridging the gap between the blind and sighted in Kenya through technology. Our graduates will be able to seek lucrative employment in fields that would otherwise be completely closed to them.
- Contribute to increased feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, and independence for our graduates.
- Societal transformation where blind children are viewed as assets to their families rather than liabilities, which will in turn result in more families believing in and investing in the children’s future.
- Transformation of social attitudes toward the blind and visually impaired as they begin to be seen as productive members of society.
- Augmenting the Africa’s workforce with highly trained and highly motivated blind contributors.
- Engage in policy change related to digital accessibility to ensure everyone has access to information on the Internet, including people with disabilities.
Additionally, Irene has led inABLE to a position of leadership in inclusive tech in education, accessible computer skills training, and assistive technology research by forging foundational relationships with charitable partners, foundations, and global technology leaders, including Safaricom Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, Google, Mastercard Foundation and many more.
While working through inABLE’s start-up and growth, Irene Mbari- Kirika grasped another critical factor which lead to the establishment of Irene’s most recent venture Technoprise Consulting. Technoprise promotes inclusive technologies as well as hiring of people with disabilities in the tech industry. Its primary goal complements inABLE’s — increasing employment of persons with disabilities in the tech industry in Africa, while providing digital accessibility services to public and private sector clients around the world.
During the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, Irene had to pivot and launch the Inclusive Africa Conference as an online event next fall- Inclusive Africa. Without missing a beat, Irene gathered global leaders in inclusive education, design, and employment to participate in the Inclusive Design Africa monthly webinar series, including a Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) program – Inclusive Africa Webinar.
In recognition of her many accomplishments, Irene Mbari- Kirika has received both The Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW) in 2016 and the Humanitarian Award, Kenyan Diaspora Advisory Council of Georgia in 2013.
Paxful’s Bitcoin Africa Fund Joins COVID-19 Fight
The bitcoin donation campaign aims to provide COVID-19 relief
Paxful: Jennifer Crossley’s heart is warmed with the knowledge that dozens of local families will have a solid meal to eat before bed each night as they face the economic devastation of Covid-19 that has led to an income crisis for many South Africa’s families.
Crossley, founder of GROW Generations Educare in Kensington, Cape Town, is both humbled and delighted that the families of the 60 children who attend her day-care have benefitted from food parcels made possible by donors like Paxful.
An entrepreneur with a Grade R teaching background, Crossley founded the day-care with her life savings and built it up from humble beginnings to a highly respected institution with the support of GROW with Educare Centres (GROW). Most of her pupils come from poverty-stricken and working-class families who rely on the creche for at least 2 meals a day. With schools closed and economic activity largely halted by COVID-19, many families are worried about putting food on the table.
“I understand the reasons for the lockdown. Unfortunately, however, the impact of the halt to the economy has been difficult for my community and many others to live through,” she said of the national lockdown. But it was her children and their families she was most worried about. Not long into the lockdown, she started receiving desperate messages from her pupils’ families who told her they were running short of money for food, electricity, and other basic necessities.
Bitcoin marketplace responds to a lockdown crisis
Help arrived to ECD Centres like Jennifer’s through the generosity of members of the public, businesses, and an unlikely source – the bitcoin-economy. Passionate about education sector and entrepreneurship, global bitcoin-marketplace Paxful jumped at the opportunity to donate food to GROW Centres and assist in shining a spotlight on the severe challenges faced by the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector in South Africa as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Crossley is not alone. It is estimated that just over 2.7 million children access an ECD programme in South Africa – mainly serving the most vulnerable communities whose household incomes have been severely constrained by the crisis.
“When I heard that food had been donated, it was definitely a miracle at the right moment. There was one Dad who told me the same morning that he had wondered what he was going to cook for his children, and when I told him that GROW had received food parcel donations, he was very thankful,” Crossley said.
“I am very thankful for these generous donations that came just in time. It felt great that my school could be a part of this – making a difference – because every little bit helps,” she said #BuiltWithBitcoin
Paxful’s #BuiltWithBitcoin charitable initiative has a long history of encouraging the bitcoin community to support charitable initiatives around the world. In the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Paxful is expanding the initiative with the launch of its Africa Fund, which aims to use bitcoin donations to support charities who are tackling the impact of the pandemic on underserved communities. Paxful is kicking off the Fund with a R270 000 ($15 000) donation, and matching any additional donations, up to R270 000 ($15 000), submitted to the Fund by members of the community in bitcoin.
“There has never been a more important time to support micro-enterprises and young children. Not only are ECD Centres vital in the educational, social and emotional development of children, but they are also key contributors to well-functioning communities. The crypto-currency sector is developing a track-record of supporting worthy causes and we’re encouraging our peers and customers to support charities like GROW ECD on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19,” says Ray Youssef, CEO of Paxful.
Urgent action required for children in need:
Still in its inception phase, Paxful’s Africa Fund, has already provided 8,400 meals across South Africa facilitated by GROW Educare Centres and its parent organization The Clothing Bank; 6,100 masks for frontline workers in Kenya; as well as essential items such as food, vitamin C, sanitizer, face masks, diapers, etc issued to 1,000 underserved people in Nigeria.
“We are incredibly grateful for Paxful and our other donors’ contributions to our hunger relief efforts. The need for food is dire in all the most vulnerable communities across South Africa during these trying times. Many of the children who attend our Educare Centres are dependent on the nutritional meals provided to them daily at our Centres, and with schools closed, in some cases, children are going hungry. Paxful’s donation will have a positive impact on children in need, their families and under-served communities at large,” says Tracey Chambers, CEO of GROW.
“Urgent action is needed, and our organization has acquired the necessary permits to utilize their facilities and capabilities to initiate fundraising and pack food parcels. Any contribution goes a long way as we need all the help that we can get to feed our communities and reach as many people as possible,” concludes Chambers.
See here for how you can donate to Paxful’s #BuiltWithBitcoin Africa Fund.
Issued by Paxful.
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